Enjoy your honeymoon in Mauritius

first_imgA view of the Pereybere beach, the smallest and one of the best in the islandRediscovered in the 16th century (though Arab and Malay sailors are known to have visited the island as early as the 10th century) by the Portuguese, Mauritius was uninhabited until 1598 when first the Dutch,,A view of the Pereybere beach, the smallest and one of the best in the islandRediscovered in the 16th century (though Arab and Malay sailors are known to have visited the island as early as the 10th century) by the Portuguese, Mauritius was uninhabited until 1598 when first the Dutch, then French and finally the British colonised the tiny island before it became independent in 1968.Even though the British rule lasted a relatively longer period, the French roots are more evident in the Mauritian lifestyle and people still prefer to speak Creole and French over the official English language.Right from the time when you set foot at the SSR International Airport at Plaisance, chances are that if you say you are from India, the locals, who proudly refer to the island as ‘Little India’-a moniker attributed to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, will give you a warmer welcome. Not surprising since over 68 per cent of Mauritians are of Indian origin whose forefathers migrated to Mauritius as indentured labourers during the British rule.Though India is seventh among top 10 nations in the Mauritius tourism pie, it contributes only a fraction to the market dominated by Europe till now. However, the Mauritian Tourism minister Nando Bodha plans to change that. He recently announced plans to attract over 100,000 Indian tourists within the next five years, more than doubling the number from the existing 49,779 (as per February 25, 2011 data). Says the minister, “Being initially frequented by honeymooners only, today we have different segment of travellers from India visiting the island.””Both Mauritius and India have a long standing historical and cultural connect. It offers the Indian travellers a perfect feel of home away from home while taking an international vacation with family, friends or spouse,” adds Bodha.Deputy director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) Vijaye Haulder agrees. “We speak Hindi, our culture and food habits are similar, what’s not to like,” he says.Mauritian Sega dancers on the beachThis ‘rainbow’ nation offers a blend of cultures, Indian, African, Chinese, French and British. And there’s plenty to do, from various sporting activities to visiting leisure parks, undersea walks, submarine rides to watching hundreds of dolphins accompanying your catamaran, lazing on beaches or long drives on the ‘tea route’ lined by tea estates are just a few of the excellent options. For a sublime experience visit the Belle Mare beach before the first light to view the perfect sunrise and head to Flic en Flac at dusk for the most surreal sunset you are likely to see, ever. At Vieux Grand Port, the oldest settlement in southeast Mauritius, you can see the ruins of the first Dutch fortifications. Or visit a former sugar factory at Beau Plan’s Aventure du Sucre. The museum here tells the story of sugar, the original economy booster once upon a time, and along the way covers the history of Mauritius.Have you heard of the Talipot Palm which flowers once in 60 years and withers thereafter? If you are lucky you might just see one in full bloom at the SSR Botanical Garden in Pamplemousses which also houses 500 different species of plants. With rising spending power, the Indian tourist, who tends to spend over Rs 16,000 per person per day, is increasingly being wooed by the island which relies on tourism as one of its prime sources of income. “Mauritius is an extremely popular mid-haul destination especially among the honeymoon travellers,” agrees Amal Rakeshi, Thomas Cook’s associate vice president Leisure Travel Outbound.”In the past few years it has caught up with families also. Honeymooners and families looking for a relaxing holiday with a focus on water sports look at Mauritius as an ideal destination,” adds Rakeshi. Arrivals from India, the nation’s top source for Asian tourists, went up by 26.8 per cent in 2010 to 49,779 (39,252 in 2009).In response, the authorities in the island nation are looking at new ways to woo the Indian tourist too. “We organise international golf tournaments and aim to introduce polo to attract the top segment of travellers,” says MTPA’s Haulder.Exploring the undersea world is a popular choice among touristsBodha’s ministry is also promoting the island as a wedding destination for Indians on the lookout for innovative options for this most memorable day. In the last six months MTPA has helped in organising over five big Indian weddings. “You have to give us at least a three month prior notice, we’ll take care of the rest for you,” says Haulder adding that they had to turn down half a dozen requests due to lack of time recently. The MTPA has instituted a special committee to push the wedding tourism strategy.Travelling to the island can be comparatively expensive though. It has four direct entry points from India-Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore, though only the Mauritian national carrier flies on this route.Rakeshi attributes the sustained interest to special deals at popular resorts which more than make up for the airfare. “Direct flights, no crime and discrimination, people of Indian origin works with travellers. It’s a mix of activities and sightseeing to families who are looking for more than relaxation. It’s the safe, easy to get around, more exotic than the Far East destination image that sells,” he says.”Good resorts with private access to nice pristine beaches, lack of Thailand-like nightlife makes it more exotic than the other beach destinations closer home,” adds Rakeshi.Whether you are the gung-ho activity seeker or looking for a romantic interlude, Mauritius offers more than you can expect to pack in on your average three- to seven-day trip. So pack your swimsuits and head for this exotic island just about seven hours by flight from India. The writer is a journalist based in Mauritius.advertisementadvertisementlast_img

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